Updated: December 27, 2013 at 8:54 am
Coloradans have until midnight Friday to sign up through the state's new marketplace for health insurance that should begin Jan. 1.
Connect for Health Colorado officials made the announcement Tuesday - an about-face extension that came after the exchange logged 5,354 new enrollees on Monday, the previous deadline day for people who wanted health insurnace coverage to begin with the new year.
New enrollees must pay their insurance companies by Jan. 10 to ensure coverage and to remain in good standing.
"There were just a lot of people who wanted to make the deadline who couldn't," said Ben Davis, the marketplace's spokesman. He added that the marketplace was "at capacity yesterday (Monday), but there were no technical problems."
Exchanges across the nation have issued deadline extensions in recent months, changing the rules several times after some technology setbacks and a rush of enrollments in December.
President Barack Obama gave an extra day for people in the 36 states using the federal exchange to sign up for coverage that's effective Jan. 1.
Colorado marketplace initially officials held firm on Monday's deadline - saying only that they'd work with people after midnight Monday to get coverage on Jan. 1.
Colorado's exchange, called Connect for Health Colorado, runs seperately from its federal counterpart.
After the deadline passed, however, Colorado officials formally extended it through midnight Friday.
The extension means that insurance compaines will have to process new enrollments more quickly, but carriers are ready to handle the tight turn-around, said Marc Reece, with the Colorado Association of Health Plans, an insurance carrier trade group.
"One more delay doesn't necessarily mean anything different for us," Reece said.
Enrollments through Colorado's marketplace picked up dramatically in December after a lackluster first two months of business. Still, far fewer people than expected have purchased plans through the exchange.
From Oct. 1 through Monday, the marketplace has tallied 42,771 enrollees.
The marketplace's worst-case enrollment projections envisioned 36,931 enrollments by Dec. 31.
Officials' mid-range projection - the figure needed for the marketplace to reach its goal of 136,300 enrollees by the end of 2014 - is 67,114 enrollees by Dec. 31.
Their best-case scenario is 102,775 enrollments by the end of the year.
People who miss Friday's extended deadline will need to apply by Jan. 15 to get coverage that starts Feb. 1.
People can enroll through March 31, if they don't mind that coverage begins later in 2014.